All posts by Paul J. McAndrew, Jr.

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Fear and Loathing in American Politics: The Trump Phenomenon

No one — whether bipartisan or partisan — knows what Donald Trump will say today ortomorrow. Just last week it was the “Mexican judge” who deigned to rule against Trump’s interests. And “my African American.” This week he’ll say something equally as outrageous. Why? Because his popularity is based on celebrity, not substance…and he is a near – if not total – megalomaniac. To believe he has the interest of any person — the poor, the rich, the in-between — is to miss this. He is acting on behalf of Donald Trump and Donald Trump only. He believes only Donald Trump and Donald Trump only. He’ll follow only Donald Trump and Donald Trump only. (It’s against my disdain of the guy to use his name so much — he likes that people use his name.)

Trump throws rallies in metro areas where there is a large potential crowd. Better, he promises to skewer any number of discreet, insular minority groups. People listen and respond to someone like Donald Trump telling them to fear those folks different than them. That formula’s worked forever. Hitler had his Jews, gays, Gypsies, etc. Tailergunner Joe McCarthy and his ilk had his “pinkoes,” “commies” and “fellow travelers.” California and other entities had those of Japanese descent in 1941, before they had those good Americans uprooted and sent to camps in vacation spots like Utah.

When one takes a group and say it’s so filled with “rapists” or “jihadis” that we must act toward the whole group like the whole group is one person, then will act out. They will discriminate against the whole group of people. And when one does that long enough you will get violent, discriminatory acts. That’s what Trump in fact has caused — fights on the fringes of his rallies between his disciples and others who don’t agree with the idea that we can depict Mexicans (even if not documented) and Muslims (even if they believe the same faith as some crazy jihadis) and other minorities as less than deserving of rights.

Trump is attracting people by the same fear tactics used by Hitler, McCarthy and FDR (and his actions against American-Japanese). He can’t win because — thank God — we have a reasonably strong economy and some prosperity provided by Mr. President Barak Obama. Trump doesn’t have a completely destitute people (1930’s Germany), a people scared to its core by communism from a USSR who’d just taken over all eastern Europe and the new Red China; or a war frenzy. Trump will be gone in December 2016.

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What I Wish I Had Known Earlier in My Workers’ Compensation Claim – Thoughts from a Former Client

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

What I Wish I Had Known Earlier in My Workers’ Compensation Claim – Thoughts from a Former Client

We frequently reach out to our clients for feedback on how to improve our services. Earlier this year, we received a very thoughtful email from one of our former clients and wanted to share his thoughts.

What I Wish I had Known Earlier

1.  Filing the workers’ compensation claim:  Employees need to know how to properly file a workers’ compensation claim. Also, there needs to be a list prepared for all employers and employees that sets out the steps both of them need to take. 

2.  Nurse Case Manager:  I wish I had better understood the nurse case manager’s role at the outset of the case. I wish I had known everything she was capable of doing, aside from just reporting to the adjuster.

3.  Emotional Toll:  The magnitude of emotional stress involved in going through a workers’ compensation claim was a surprise; was there an option for counseling? This is truly a life changing event. Counseling would have been beneficial to alleviate the stressfulness of the process and the overwhelming feelings of abandonment.  For example, the feelings of “I know I’m hurt but why can’t they see that” or “why don’t they care?”

4.  Communication:  The importance of discussing issues with an attorney as early as possible.

If you have been through a workers’ compensation claim, let us know if you have other items to add. 

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Call “Reform” What It Is: Death By A Thousand Cuts For Workers’ Rights

Today’s post comes from guest author Catherine Stanton, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

This week I attended the 20th anniversary of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG) in Chicago. I am a proud past president of this group – the only national Workers’ Compensation bar association dedicated to representing injured workers.  

As an attorney who has represented injured workers for more than 25 years, I have seen their rights and benefits shrink under the guise of “reform”. After the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, which killed almost 150 women and girls, workplace safety and Workers’ Compensation laws were enacted. For the next half century or so, many protections and safeguards were implemented. However, many of these reforms were not sufficient, and in 1972, the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws, appointed by then-President Nixon, issued a report noting that state Workers’ Compensation laws were neither adequate nor equitable. This led to a decade when most states significantly improved their laws. 

Unfortunately, there has once more been a steady decline in benefits to injured workers, again under the guise of reform. One major argument is that many workers are faking their injuries or they just want to take time off from work. There was even a recent ad campaign in which a young girl was crying because her father was going to jail for faking an injury. Workers’ Compensation fraud does exist, but the high cost of insurance fraud is not as a result of workers committing fraud.

A colleague of mine compiled a list of the top 10 Workers’ Compensation fraud cases in 2014 in which he noted that the top 10 claims of fraud cost taxpayers well more than $75 million dollars with $450,000 of the total amount resulting from a worker committing insurance fraud. That leaves $74.8 million as a result of non-employee fraud, including overbilling and misclassification of workers. We are told that insurance costs are too high; yet, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) in 2014, estimates show that private Workers’ Compensation carriers will have pulled in $39.3 billion in written premiums, the highest since they began keeping data in 1990. More premiums result in higher net profits. Despite this, many states have implemented changes in their Workers’ Compensation systems aimed at reducing costs to the employer. The end results, however, is that fewer benefits are given to the injured worker and more profits go to the insurance companies.

In New York, one of the reform measures increased the amount of money per week to injured workers but limited the amount of weeks they can receive these benefits with the idea that they will return to work once their benefits run out. Additionally, limitations have been placed on the amount and types of treatment that injured workers may receive. Again, this is with the notion that once treatment ends, injured workers miraculously are healed and will not need additional treatment. In reality, those injured who can’t return to work receive benefits from other sources from state and federal governments at the taxpayer’s expense.  This is what is known as cost shifting, as those really responsible to pay for benefits – the insurance companies who collect the premiums from the employers – have no further liability. The reformers of 100 years ago would be appalled at what is happening to injured workers and their families today. It is time that those who are generating profits at the expense of injured workers do what is fair and just – provide prompt medical care and wage replacement to injured workers for as long as they are unable to work.

To stay on top of important Workers’ Compensation happenings, please visit the Facebook page of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP and “Like Us.” That way you will receive the latest news on your daily feed.

 

 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

 

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Closed Period of Disability: Money You May Be Missing Out On

Today’s post comes from guest author William Morrison, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

If you have been out of work for 12 months or more, you may meet the requirements for a “closed period of disability” and may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. It is likely that you are eligible for benefits if the following statements apply to you:

  • You have been out of work for at least 12 months
  • You were out of work due to medical reasons
  • You received medical treatment during the time you were out of work

To receive benefits, you must also meet the minimum requirements for having a disability, which include having a medically determinable impairment that meets certain legal standards. A physician who can attest to your condition and treatment can help provide evidence to substantiate your claim. Your attorney can help you avoid roadblocks.

There is a mandatory 5-month waiting period from the date of being found disabled before a claimant is entitled to their first monthly benefit for a closed period of disability. Therefore, if you are out of work for exactly 12 months, you will be entitled to monthly benefit payments for 7 of those months.

To file for a closed period of disability, contact an attorney who can help you win your case and get paid.

If you have any questions about the material in this post or any questions at all about Social Security Disability, feel free to reach out to me at wmorrison@workerslaw.com.

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Back Injuries in Nursing – One Nifty Idea to Avoid Them

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

The American Nursing Association’s Handle with Care campaign seeks to educate, advocate, and facilitate change from traditional practices of manual patient handling to emerging, technology-oriented methods. The campaign seeks to highlight how safe patient handling produces benefits to patients and the nursing workforce.  The ANA’s Handle with Care Fact Sheet provides the following thought-provoking data:

A Profession at Risk

  • Compared to other occupations, nursing personnel are among the highest at risk for musculoskeletal disorders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists RNs sixth in a list of at-risk occupations for strains and sprains that included nursing personnel, with nurses aides, orderlies and attendants (first); truck drivers (second); laborers (third); stock handlers and baggers (seventh); and construction workers (eighth). 
  • Additional estimates for the year 2000 show that the incidence rate for back injuries involving lost work days was 181.6 per 10,000 full-time workers in nursing homes and 90.1 per 10,000 full-time workers in hospitals, whereas incidence rates were 98.4 for truck drivers, 70.0 for construction workers, 56.3 for miners, and 47.1 for agriculture workers. 
  • Lower back injuries are also the most costly musculoskeletal disorder affecting workers. Studies of back-related workers compensation claims reveal that nursing personnel have the highest claim rates of any occupation or industry. 
  • Research on the impact of musculoskeletal injuries among nurses:
    • 52 percent complain of chronic back pain; 
    • 12 percent of nurses “leaving for good” because of back pain as main contributory factor; 
    • 20% transferred to a different unit, position, or employment because of lower back pain, 12 percent considering leaving profession; 
    • 38 percent suffered occupational-related back pain severe enough to require leave from work; and 
    • 6 percent, 8 percent, and 11 percent of RNs reported even changing jobs for neck, shoulder and back problems, respectively.

One Possible Tool

The website idées créatives posted this elegant video of an automatic bed that could allow for patient repositioning and assist with moving into and out of the bed, shown in a nursing home or hospital setting. 

 

 

 

Attack on Workers’ Rights Around the Country

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

As this article correctly notes, “Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing”!  Our work comp colleague in Pennsylvania are facing further attacks on their workers’ compensation system.  The article astutely points out: “Across the country, in state houses largely influenced by insurance industry interests, there is an insidious attack on workers’ rights masquerading as ‘workers’ compensation reform’.”

These deform measures are creating a race to the bottom across the country for workers’ benefits and rights.  Medical providers and the medical community should be on high alert when legislation mentions fee schedules or treatment guidelines.  Putting aside the political double-speak, many of these legislative efforts result in a direct burden shift for the costs of medical expenses from the worker’s compensation insurance company to the worker (through private health insurance) or the public (in the form of government insurance, like Medicaid and Medicare).  Be aware.

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Medical Records Important for Workers’ Compensation Claim

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Medical records are necessary to substantiate an injured worker’s claim. At a minimum, injured workers and attorneys need the records from doctors and hospitals to show the diagnoses the workers have and the treatment that they have received. This includes records from physical therapy, MRI, pain management, orthopedic, etc.  

Every injured worker has a right to receive her or his medical records, and by law should be able to obtain those records promptly at a fair cost.

Federal law is clear: a patient has the “right to obtain from [their health care providers] a copy of [their medical records] in an electronic format,” 42 USC § 17935(e)(1), and that health care providers may bill “only the cost of … copying, including the cost of supplies for and labor of copying,” 45 CFR 164.524(c)(4)(i). This is all part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act).

Rehm, Bennett & Moore employs the HITECH Act on behalf of injured clients to represent them in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

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Insult to Injury: ProPublica’s Series “Demolition of Workers’ Compensation” Focuses on Ongoing Workers’ Comp Woes Faced by Injured Workers Nationally

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Recent years have not been favorable to injured workers. States across the nation have enacted “reform” measures curbing injured workers benefits. Disability caps have been introduced, medical care restricted. In our last blog, we discussed Oklahoma’s Opt Out provisions as an example of the court system declaring that the legislature had legislated away too much of the injured worker’s protections. A couple years ago, Florida workers’ comp laws were declared unconstitutional by a judge. Although the decision was later reversed, the Florida judge (Judge Cueto) expressed concerns regarding the loss of an employee’s right to wage-loss benefits after an accident.  

 

NPR and ProPublica have been authoring an in-depth series on national workers’ compensation issues. ProPublica reviewed “reams of insurance industry data” and their findings confirmed what many workers’ compensation attorneys suspected for years:  insurance companies are increasingly controlling medical decisions, workers are unable to pick their own doctor in many states, and insurers are denying medical care based on internal “guidelines.”

 

As an example, ProPublica’s article talks about a case in California where the insurance company reopened an old case and denied medical care based on the opinion of a doctor who never even saw the patient. “Joel Ramirez, who was paralyzed in a warehouse accident, had his home health aide taken away, leaving him to sit in his own feces for up to eight hours.”

 

The article also brings up a good point about workers’ comp fraud. Repeatedly studies show “most of the money lost to fraud results not from workers making false claims but from employers misclassifying workers and underreporting payroll to get cheaper insurance rates.”